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Tobacco : Threat to our environment

Far from the promise of endgame, the tobacco epidemic continues.

The tobacco industry-propelled epidemic of tobacco-caused diseases and untimely deaths continue to plague human development. Despite significant progress on tobacco control, the endgame of tobacco – which is a human rights and social justice imperative – is not yet in sight. The recently released 7th edition of Tobacco Atlas shows that while the global smoking prevalence in adults has declined from 22.7% in 2007 to 19.6% in 2019, we still have 1.3 billion tobacco users in the world. The progress on the endgame of tobacco is threatened by the growing tobacco smoking rates among children aged 13 to 15 years in many countries and by tobacco industry tactics targeting poorer countries with weak regulatory environments and pushing so-called ‘novel’ products in previously untapped markets. It is a warning call to all those who care about global health and economic development. Urgent and sustained efforts are needed to aggressively regulate the harmful tobacco industry and its products to save lives, and spur economic growth, said Jeffrey Drope, lead author of the Tobacco Atlas. Tobacco use remains a global epidemic. Besides being a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases, it leads to an estimated nearly 9 million deaths globally every year (almost 8 million deaths due to tobacco use and 1 million deaths from exposure to second-hand smoke) and economic losses of nearly USD 2 trillion. 1.9 million (21%) of these deaths occur in the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Southeast Asia region which comprises 11 countries- Bangladesh, Bhutan, DPR Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Timor-Leste. With 26% of the world’s population, the Southeast Asia region reported the highest prevalence of tobacco use (28%) amongst all WHO regions globally in 2020. The region is not only one of the largest producers and consumers of tobacco products globally but is also home to 20% of the world’s adult smokers (241 million) and 34% (14.8 million) of the world’s tobacco consuming young population (13-15 years). Moreover, it has 82% (301 million) of the global smokeless tobacco (SLT) users and boasts of having the highest prevalence (7.3%) of SLT use in…